tv After Words CSPAN December 1, 2014 12:00am-1:01am EST
>> >> end you make it incredibly exciting. i am curious to know your previous books were about al capone so what made you choose this subject? >> it is funny because i did not have on my radar at all until 10 or 12 years ago i heard our rabbi give a sermon to think of yourself as a partner with guide to change the world not just yourself but think about how we can transform our existence and he said the birth control pill think of how the inventors must have set out to create one of the most important inventions of all time to change human
dynamics, marriage and reproduction. but he never said how we got it and i became curious and it struck me as odd that anybody would have on their agenda to control fertility and '50s so who did that? and then i found this incredible story these underdogs with no government support doing what everybody told the of was impossible. >> host: sketch out what life was like before the pill. >> guest: people today i think many people take it for granted. before the '60s the options for contraception were very limited. abortion. and abstinence and abortion
was very not saved and abstinence was harder said than done there was some condoms but whitman had to go through meant even to get access to those it effective than an excess of all forms of contraception and. many women had eight or nine children and women lahood = motherhood so you don't see those opportunities to see graduate school and careers it was a very different world and even as you point out in your book marital base was not legal it was so different the opportunities to control their own body. the pill was one factor but
it was important. >> host: until the 30's 30's, disseminating information about birth control was illegal. so even those methods of the condom and the diaphragm or very hard to come by. you talk how women would follow margaret sanger to tell us the secret. what is the secret? >> guest: they felt they were not prevented -- for preventive forgetting that defamation because they thought government would arrest them. those laws remain on the books but although not enforced through the '60s. >> host: in connecticut it through 1965 that struck down the law that birth
control for sale and use even by married couples. >> guest: and massachusetts as well the late '60s and that is where they're doing the research so that is the problem how you test it to even disseminating information is illegal. >> host: the book is so interesting that people come together to create the pill. what was the role? >> what i've sluggish is these for dynamic characters are all aware that they're doing something incredibly risky. the first is margaret sanger who says since the 1920's there ought to be a miracle tablet that is heard term to allow women to return on and
off the reproductive system and she is very specific something that women control , they keep in their purse the men don't know at one day are done they get pregnant again. the people said it is science fiction will never happen and it is illegal and what accompanies will support this? but she keeps asking for years and years what can we do? and finally in the '50s she meets gregory p. get -- p. get that has been hired -- fired from harvard to be too radical and was experimenting with in vitro fertilization to declare to control the reproductive process and women would have far more flexibility how they got pregnant and then might not be necessary and that scared people
tremendously and he could not find work anywhere. he starts his own deep scientific foundatiofoundatio n asking for donations and he said i can do a birth control pill. she is flabbergasted how was that possible? by he explained it is very simple jury has of progesterone in her body that tells the body not to produce more babies. and she said what does it take and he said a couple thousand dollars. sell margaret sanger goes out to find an ally. and she will find though whole project her husband left hundreds of millions of dollars and whatever it takes the will build laboratories and by the animals and write a blank
check for recover else. but he does need one more thing a doctor who knows how to treat women. so he finds john ross the catholic gynecologist's most respected fertility expert and gets him to come along. so no somebody who brings respectability and is also a catholic touche challenge the church. that sex is good for marriage not just a reproduction and these people are on their own but they set out to do something that everybody tells them is impossible. >> host: above that catherine mccormack imported diaphragms from europe by selling them into dresses because it was illegal to bring them and. she was very creative with the tragic life because a
husband was complete the schizophrenic and insane and she spent her life taking care of him but not until he died when she was in her '70's that she could invest in to the reproductive adventure. but the two women are both in their 70's. stock and plays such a major role. and actually wondered if use canted them a little bit? because that was the last decade of margaret sayers career that she was beginning to show a senile dementia but she was such an
amazing force i want to just to say i was allowed but she was an old woman who loved sex but actually she was a major thinker of women's liberation a wonderful book and people should read that along with your book and she said she was up there along with elizabeth cady stanton really felt like the independence of women that they're not here to reproduce children to be man's identity and she was a
very serious person. >> guest: i agree completely but satyr sees that the pill can be a tool to open up the up possibilities not just to have more sex but become = that it said g.d. gets out of the bottler will change everything and she is right. but from the story telling standpoint the way it steals the spotlight is once she opens the door to understand that process of approval for the government you have to see these suits test until
lot women who are the lab rats and see the process to get drug companies to agree and shanker is pushing and pushing from offstage and a graduate from m.i.t. with a science degree to make sure they don't take up process over. but from the storytelling's standpoint those that carry the ball to the goal line. >> you make it exciting the iq of feinstein and the nerves of a card shark can what you're thinking about is a just wanted to have some science. the data is also baffling
because he started off as a conservative catholic they confessed so many sins to his priest you don't have to be so scrupulous. said he was extremely conservative as sex if not entirely for reproduction but he changes. >> he goes to work as a doctor and gynecology is his specialty and is exposed to women to fertility issues and begins to have a great empathy with these women and begging what can we do to stop it? the only option is a
hysterectomy or there is a of metal -- a medical emergency but it changes his view and he begins to see that sex should be run are of of marriage that as a result he remains a faithful catholic the questions of it is possible if the church is teachings are wrong. said he decided to see what he can do about it and that is very unusual but he meets with the vatican before it is even approve. >> but the way that works made it like the rhythm method that the pope had approved of in the 1930's
and that opened the door a little bit but that did not work out. >> it was an interesting argument. >> he tried to argue it was a modern version to improve on the of with the message to regulate your cycle and you do when it was safe to have sex which was all the time. but all of this horrible stuff was a new and how artificial hormones even in the form of the pill could change shape bodily function so they thought of that as the improvement on the rhythm method if you know, it is a few should have sex for pleasure.
said committee actually goes to endorse this idea. >> on the part of the church they still do it but not as intense i have a quote from the archbishop pays that said contraception was worse than abortion because it is true but it plays with god's plan to create of life so it is very hard to wrap your mind around that because phil's will say birth control but not the church.
but it is interesting to go back to use the house strong the opposition was. so people think birth control pill the people already have condoms. what good does that do? that is amazing. >> guest: margaret sanger the key word is control. now it gave women the control because up to that point the condo was great the women had no control. and if it had approved to hold the line on abortion and may have made a difference but then most begin to follow john but if there's is one area i don't agree and to the the church
behind on this issue. >> so it is the beginning of people who don't like this cafeteria where you take what you want to. >> host: one said i am a catholic so i use it very faithfully. wait a minute. you are missing something. so did you have any idea about the strong political feelings attached to the bill even today? >> you cannot miss it. we coz i thought it would be great for people to understand how we got here and what it looked like before.
sager thought once it got out there that gave women more opportunities to have healthier children and reduce abortions in the argument is over. and i don't think it is fair to keep fighting over the issue if you don't understand where they come from. >> what does bother most people? what is the reason why? >> i would like to hear your opinion. i think it is deeply rooted in twos sexes some. people are uncomfortable with the approaching sex with pleasure but then can that women cannot.
>> budget as women are the gatekeepers of sex they could restatement then if not, too bad. but if one and can have sex whenever they want white men then all hell breaks loose. and we see that to play out now. for the abstinence education of the teenager has sex than that is terrible. >> but all the talk is about girls i am and used by the fiat grads and i imagine if
their ads for birth control for women like men it they would go crazy and there would be riots industry but for men is so k. >> so what is the story of the two people in the separate bathtubs? [laughter] >> i don't know. >> i thought it was because they already had sex. [laughter] >> if you want to get into that of you have to take niagara. [laughter] >>.
>> host: the ethics of experimentation. let's talk about that. i was very interested in how different the ethics of experimentation and testing was in the 1950's it was the free-for-all. >> what they did do a test the pill and sounds crazy but they were within the standards of their day. so had you test something that is illegal? they tested it on women who we're going with infertility. to see if they're really just down ovulation the women were told it might help them get pregnant but
in fact, they strongly believed it would prevent them. so they tested them in insane asylums then into p.r. then they found hundreds of women. but the ethics were definitely questionable at times. >> host: it is interesting with p.r. because because of the medical students take the pill and if not they would get bad grades in school so then they realized women and really want birth control to say have this. my husband will not use a condom and they reusing
sterilization. so do you remember that history of forced sterilization? and testing the pill in p.r. but there was a tremendous demand. >> women were offered free sterilization and they were paying for those the average woman had seven children so when they heard there was the pill available that was experimental or not it mattered they began digging for a lighting up at the clinics on sunday the preacher would say we have heard there is a new contraception remember the
church does not allow this but the line was longer the next day was like advertising that demand. when they try to force it on the female nursing students they would not go for it because of the side effects said dosages were much higher than they needed to be bette women with says children more likely to deal with that. >> seven children is the big side effect. >> when was the first marketed it was not marketed for birth control but minstrel regulation can you talk about that and that whole process and the revealed that this is really for birth control? >> these are guerrilla warfare they have the fight and doing things that are
surreptitious because there is no universities supporting them. so they see there is said demand that they are getting letters saying i heard there is research going on for birth control when can i get it? they see there is demand to take this to the drug company that has been supplying the drug the whole time to say keep our name out of this. women are clamoring. they agree to apply for permission so we will collet of regulator of the cycle. so when they apply to the fda they show the data that really does regulate the minstrel cycle and they said
it does and they approved it. then there is a little label that says will prevent pregnancy. then that is more advertising now women go to the doctor to save a need this when they had their regular cycles when really they did not want to have the child and a doctor realized it began to prescribe off label and now you have a groundswell. >> and it is a couple of years later they got permission to market as the birth control pill officially. >> then they filed an extension remember that bill that you prescribed? it also prevents pregnancy
and by then hundreds of thousands were then not to approve it. >> you talked about compare and contrast for those that were also supposed to prevent morning sickness and cause devastating birth defects. but it was not marketed here. what was the relation of that terrible scandal to the marketing of the pill? >> it was to be distributed when the fda began to notice there was problems that babies were born with deformities and at the same time the bill was in the approval process and there were problems discovered
even one year earlier probably would have stopped the development. so this is what they would take every day it was altering hormones. not to cure disease or fix an ailment that the standards for approval would be much higher in a leak tested on 132 women that had taken it six months or more when it was approved so it never would have gotten through after these problems were apparent. >> host: there were young women now who are rejecting the pill. feminist women that believe in equality so why should you take this with you can
so it's an interesting bill i'm about i understand if you're messing around with someone's hormones it is a personal issue. >> host: said this occurs as a question. here we have this medication that it's turned out to send just for, quote, lifestyle reasons. it also has benefits like device a minute prevents cancer, heart attacks. you live longer, it decreases your risk of all kinds of disastrous things that can go wrong. so, why can't it be smuggled into acceptability in the catholic church just as this is a medication, the primary effect of which is to make it more healthy with a secondary benefit but that of course is and what you're doing it. >> guest: it's a fascinating argument.
if they'd taken that to the church in 1957 instead of trying to compare to the rhythm of the deficit we have a new women's health pill that in addition to all these other benefits allows them to decide when they are ready to get pregnant or not or start their own catholic families which is really what the church wanted, then it might have been a very different argument and it's all about how you frame these things. in the beginning they did the best job of framing it and focused on the focus on the issues of the day which were population control and not sex, not women's health. they thought the best issue for them in terms of propaganda and in terms of gaining public support was population control and the pill really doesn't have a kind of effect on that over the decades that they thought it would. but it was an important movement at the time and it's easy now 60 years later to say they should have recognized that this has helped the facts. they couldn't have known that because nobody had taken it long
enough. >> host: most people don't know that now that we hear so much more about possible dangers of the pill and side effects, some of which seem to be, you suggested at a point where not -- what is the point that i want, psychosomatic. >> guest: but i will say the biggest argument all of the side effects especially when they were ramping the doses up to hide all of the potential dangers that we may learn about down the road that may cause cancer, they are minuscule compared to the number of women dying in childbirth from unplanned parenthood and sees you to -- pregnancies and that if we could reduce those committee overall health benefits are going to overwhelm any possible side effects and that was one of the important arguments that they made when they were putting this on. >> host: it is amazing that
didn't carry a lot more weight for example with religious objections that you're saving women from death in childbirth. >> guest: it is disappointing that even now it doesn't carry more weight because it should carry more weight today. >> host: people don't think anymore that death and childbirth is a thing. 800 women a year in the united states, it is a record of maternal mortality. it's not that good compared to others. >> host: >> guest: the pill reduced the number of infantry mortality overnight. you start to see all these changes occurring for the opportunity is really within a couple of years of the approval. so no question about it it's something that we take for granted now. >> host: let's talk about the social changes the pill helped to bring about. just talk about that hell did their lives change?
>> guest: used her to see them pushing back the age of marriage and that they had their first children. >> host: this is terrible. >> guest: you see them go to college and stay longer and become secretary and they stay for four years and get bachelors degrees. by the mid-60s it's on the cover of "time" magazine and there is an alarm like what's going on here. women are having sex on campus. it's getting a little crazy out there but they also note that there are these huge fundamental change is that the age of marriage is starting to inch off. women are waiting longer to have children. is the kind people noticed it almost instantly and it's very rare to see that change happening so quickly. >> host: . maybe you start having children and that is kind of the end of the possibilities. there is a character in the book
i thought that her life seemed so sad to me and maybe it did to her. she knows it and she's surrounded by these brilliant people for all the scientists that are working for the house and she can hang out with any of them in conversation. there's nothing for her to do but make the casseroles and wait for her husband to come home from work. millions of women in that kind of situation over the all over the country and all over the world. people begin to wonder what was wrong with you and that is the cultural norm. >> host: in fertility and infertility always attributed. and john rocker was someone that
thought maybe men have something to do with it and he would test semen. he was apparently one of the few people that had this thought so deeply ingrained was the idea that everything was long about the women. >> guest: women's lives were defined by their pregnancy or their lack thereof. if god forbid they got pregnant before they were married they were outcasts from society. and if they didn't get married. so the pill allowed a lot more range of opportunities and choices for women. >> host: what about some of the social changes? >> guest: there were the career opportunities and then you start to see the feeding into that revolution that is another kind of social change. more casual sex, promiscuity, divorce rates began to rise during the 60s. you can't attribute all of that
to the pill because it is part of a much bigger revolution that is underway but the pill is a part of it coming and it certainly is a factor. >> host: well i wondered about that actually. wasn't the big leap in the divorce rates when the walls were changed? there was a lot of pent-up demand but getting the divorce was difficult. you have to have the grounds could sometimes hire a detective it was a tremendous amount of crissy went on. and there was the alimony that prevents people from getting married. once of the law changed okay let's go for it. >> guest: there were also more opportunities to go get get jobs and raise children on their own and see a complete outcast and the bill had something to do with that as well. >> host: at one point you put pornography on the the best we can think the pill for.
i didn't understand that at all. >> guest: it was the idea that i was attributing to certain critics. but what they were saying is you would have a general slide toward promiscuity and that brings about loosening the morals that would lead to things including a casual attitude towards pornography. >> host: you mentioned that in japan the pill was only legalized quite recently. they kept it out. japanese men, they were on having a wild life when they are not working themselves to death. so specifically, the women. >> guest: they only approved it after viagra got there.
>> guest: i didn't know that. >> guest: margaret sanger was popular in japan. birth control devices in the 30s and 40s were named for her because she was the first to go over there and spread the word. she was a hero whenever she visited. >> guest: >> host: you mentioned that there was an antiabortion medication marketed under her name, named after her in japan i think in the 30s even. >> guest: i just saw an advertisement for it and it just goes to show the power and influence in any brand that was named sanger dot gave women some control. >> host: it's interesting because even though this is the last decade of her life and she had lost control of most of the organizations that she had
helped found and it's interesting she always hated the name planned parenthood. she much preferred the term birth control that she she has and then did. but she organized this huge conference in japan, an international conference on reproductive developments. and she was in her late 70s then. and i just thought you know, she's an older woman and she's still incredibly active even at the time people say she's an old has been, i don't care that her that she was still very active. >> guest: and it was 1955 when she hoped the conference in japan and abroad came over and told the press they were going to declare this new form of birth control had been discovered and there was going to be an oral contraceptive and this was going to change the world and john said you can't go
over there. we have only tested on 30 women. you cannot declare the success to declare victory. but he always loved headlines and was confident that this was going to work so he made the speech and even though it was perhaps foolish it was one of those things that open up the floodgates because now women all over the world were writing to their doctors and saying when can we get it and they helped me get seemed like an inevitability even when it was far from an inevitable. >> host: i want to go back and ask about something that you said earlier, which was that the pill had not really fulfilled its promise of lowering birth rates around the world. i think maybe that would have been true like 20 years ago, but now we are seeing tremendous drops in the birth rate in some places like latin america for
example in asia. it's interesting because they used to have this idea they won't control their family size until everything is all modern. there is much of latin latin america birthrate is falling through the floor even before the modernization really catches up. and the only place where the birth rate is as high as it was our sub-saharan africa and parts of the muslim world but not other birth of the muslim world where it is the same as here so it seems like it's been pretty successful and not everybody that wants it can get it even today. today. >> there's a problem with access and the reliability of just remembering to take it every day. and i think that limited the pill in the early years. now they are using the same technology to make the long-acting forms of contraception that can be
implanted into those basically work on the same hormones that get developed and they are more effective, still expensive in some parts of the world but they are much more effective and i do think that it could be that for the last 30 or 40 years that part of the dream wasn't coming true but we are starting to see progress. >> host: although there are so many people that have two children it's going to be a long time after global warming the population will start to fall. it's a little depressing. let's talk a little bit about population control and eugenics as part of the birth control story. >> guest: he's criticized for being a eugenicist and racist and i think that it is a little unfair. he said something that by today's standards are reprehensible but she was part of a movement at the time, part of an era where eugenics was
talked about why is the mainstream circle. especially on the well to do it is something that was wisely discussed how do we encourage more and discourage those that we don't want. it was also considered a part of the mainstream debate at the time and she was a pragmatist. she fought by gaining allies anywhere she could in the eugenics movement it would further the cause and she was looking at the big picture. >> host: i think it is so hard to put one's self back in the framework of the mental and emotional framework of the earlier day and i don't think she was racist. she was concerned about very poor people that are but are
often immigrants having enormous families they couldn't take care of and the terrible sense of that on everybody's health and life and all that but she was closed to a lot of the intellectuals of the day that loved her like w. e. b. du boise and her birth control clinics in the south were staffed by black people and were not at all coercive. people wanted to control their fertility. and loretta ross who's written about race and reproduction is one of the people that has but has put together the framework of the reproductive justice. it is a way that the people are starting to think more about reproductive issues. she says they always seize the opportunity to control their fertility.
even more absurd if we than white women sometimes. so i think when people just throw around racism, they are reaching. >> guest: it is an easy way to apply to modern standards and language that we throw around casually. but it's on the side of helping women of all colors. >> host: she was very progressive in other areas and started off as a socialist and she always voted for norman thomas. that was her little jester she kept up the socialist candidate. >> guest: her whole career began because she was working -- her own family from other had too many children she felt like and she worked in the tiananmen of the lower east side and she's all they had more than they could handle and that launched
her career. >> host: coming back to the present day i am curious of what you make of some new developments in reproductive medicine and control. one of the things that struck me is how far back some of these things are. like working on the in vitro fertilization in the 30s and the iud it turns out it's from the 20s. i wouldn't want one of those things. it's like as big as a suitcase but still we think of that and state-of-the-art. that's a very modern. so there is a long history but something like egg freezing, for example, that is the latest because apple and google have said that they could pay for a certain amount of this for the employees and that would give
women nobody really knows how successful that can be when you unfreeze the eggs 15 years later that would give women even more control. one of the things you make so clear from the early days of opposition to all of this research when pincus was in the news a lot for the test tube fertilization kind of thing and "the new york times" reporting was shocking on that completely sensationalized because he never did make a rabbit in a test tube that's one of the things that was said is this is unnecessary. now women will have all the power. and i'm not quite sure why they thought that because if you need a bb in a test tube without a
human body to be in, how would that give women all the power box >> guest: they wouldn't be burdened anymore and they would have time on their hands. >> host: they would just make trouble. anyway, can you talk about the most recent developments like freezing eggs? >> guest: with interesting to note also he was working on the morning after pill and handed off to the hand it off to the scientists that eventually went on to patton it. we haven't moved that far. we are talking about a lot of the same issues that we were in the days of contest's work. we haven't seen as many major breakthroughs in the contraception as would have expected. the fact that we are still working on the same hormones in a slightly different form is surprising if there isn't as much research. nobody is thinking as boldly as
these guys were. people like the gates foundation funding the amount of research a lot of research looking for better ways that will help the areas that haven't been reached there is more going on as you discussed things that affect the well-to-do women in the united states and europe and there isn't that kind of money where options are still more limited. >> host: do you know anything about the latest comic can you tell a little bit about the latest scientific -- >> guest: there's new options. it's just ten years off. they have the same incentive because they don't have to worry about getting pregnant so they have side effects of the market
in a way and this doesn't get talked about much but but it's cut man out of the discussion for the most part. if you like it's the woman's problem. it's her responsibility. she has the pill. i assume she has discovered and as a result there isn't the kind of dialogue and then if you like it is an awkward subject for them to talk about. they don't like condoms and that is where the conversation ends. that is going to raise problems if it does come up with better options. are they going to be ready for that and at least consider it? >> guest: it's interesting because they both felt the great thing is that it was women controlled and a woman could be taking it without her partner nothing because a lot of men did and want their wives to have this control and they didn't care how many kids she had because it was just her. it was all on her.
or they could walk away. what is interesting is that that argument this is when in to this is when in control. men don't need to know about it. it's kind of paired with another argument which is i wouldn't trust another man to use it. if they said they were using it and they were not, why would they remember to take their pill, and i think that is changing as men and women become a little more better able to talk to each other about things and more a quality. and it's no fun for a man to have a baby at the wrong time. >> guest: to try to hit the fact that women and men are on more equal footing today than they were in the sanger's days these are questions couples should have together and we are getting better at it but as long as the responsibility weighs so heavily with the woman, i think that men are still getting a bit
of a pass and sometimes relieved to take the pass. >> host: i have a few more questions than it might sound frivolous but what interests me greatly why is it so hard for people to remember to take a pill, not just the pill but what's with these women they don't remember and the wonderful vinyl pack was invented by amanda was frustrated that his wife kept forgetting so he wrote a piece of paper with all the dates and he put a pill on each date. then the paper so. he would make sure did you take it. then it fell and they were back where they'd been before. so he invented this wonderful title pack that allows you to keep track and yet people do seem to have trouble taking any kind of medication everyday.
i have this problem myself with stipends that i'm supposed to take and i think that i take it today, i don't remember. help me out here. >> guest: our lives are complicated and we can't even remember what we did this morning. that's why some people prefer the end plans, the long-acting -- >> host: that is the iud, for example which unfortunately is very expensive, and the affordable care act is supposed to help with that. and it's interesting that the people opposed to the birth control provisions in the affordable care act, the no copayment often focus on these long-acting methods and you think why, because they work, is that the problem? >> guest: one of the things when she had this vision is that this should be a pill that isn't connected to the act. you don't have to take it right before coming to just take it
every day and forget about it and you can have sex whenever you want but there is no stumbling or fumbling or wheat heat of the moment i have to reach for my pill. she was insistent this is something you take like your vitamin every day. when you think about it it is probably and creative also helps to destigmatize it a little bit. >> host: your book is great and i wish you every success. thanks for being here. >> that was "after words," booktv signature programming much authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers and others familiar with their material. "after words" airs every weekend at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. on sunday and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" online.